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MBA8000 Applied Business Research and Ethics
The research report is about the spread of Zika Virus among pregnant women and their unborn babies. It is about the company named as ABC which has produced a gene therapy technique in which the development of microcephaly is seen in unborn babies which are affected by Zika virus. Zika virus is a kind of infection which is transmitted through Aedes mosquitoes and people often feel fever, rashes and pain when infected with it. This virus gives chances of microcephaly. This therapy introduced by ABC company requires stem cells for better treatment as stem cells are proved to be very effective in treating this dangerous virus.
The research focuses on the ethical and legal acquisition of stem cells by Company ABC for their gene therapy technique. The company is a big multinational company which is planning to set up its big research unit. This report will help them to decide the type of stem cells which are to be used for the therapy and treatment of Zika virus and to stop further spread of it.
Zika virus has shown its ill effects in many countries like America and Pacific countries. The risk of Zika infection is rising and it also makes difficult for the health officials to treat them as the virus is transmitted through the physical contact between people and there is no such treatment or vaccine for curing this infection. According to a article in a newspaper, The Daily Star, pregnant women have the highest risk of this virus because it also causes many defects to the unborn child, one of which is microcephaly in which a child is born with small head and brain is not developed (Palma, 2016). In Brazil, there are 1800 cases of Microcephaly.
Government is taking some measures to reduce the cases of the disease like a careful watch is done on the airport and seaports to examine the infected travelers so that they cannot be the reason of transmission of disease to other people. The scanners are installed which detect the infection. People are provided by the cards in which they can provide information that they are coming from which country and what is the present condition of infection in the same. The main aim of the government is to increase public awareness for the disease so that they can protect themselves and others from the infection (Caulfield, et al., 2015).
Government spread awareness to use mosquito’s repellents and nets to prevent mosquito’s bites and the World Health organisation (WHO) also advised males and females who returned from the infected countries to have sex with preventive measures. Babies also get affected from Zika virus in the womb through their mothers. It stops the brain development of children. It is not definite that the pregnant women infected with Zika virus will give birth to a child with microcephaly but it often creates problems in development of brain, small head or other health problems. It has been very problematic as no treatment has been developed till now which can protect at least fetus in a pregnant lady. According to the studies, 1-13% of the pregnant women give birth to the babies with microcephaly as the uterus of the women gets exposed to the virus. These children born with microcephaly need extra medical care and support from families (KLASS, 2016).
What is microcephaly?
It can be referred as to the defect in the birth of a baby where the head of the baby is smaller than a typical size of baby’s head. These babies have small size of brain and it is not developed properly. It is because when the women are pregnant, the brain of baby develops as the head develops and when the development of bay stops because of any reason, the brain development also stops. The babies who are born with microcephaly can have other problems like problems in overall development, low intellectual, low balance in body, problem in hearing or any vision problem. These problems can be lifelong and these are life threatening too. So, the babies with microcephaly needs close monitoring and regular health checkups. Microcephaly can occur due to infections during pregnancy, malnutrition, intake of alcohol or drugs or improper blood supply to the brain of baby in the womb. The latest cause is Zika virus which can cause fatal problems. Microcephaly can be diagnosed during pregnancy or when the baby is born (AKPAN, 2016).
Treatment of microcephaly
This is a lifelong defect and till now there is no cure or treatment which has been made or produced. It can be from mild to severe condition. Mild microcephaly requires regular health checkup and monitoring as they do not have any other problem besides the small size of head and severe microcephaly have other heath problems with the small size of head and babies with severe microcephaly need proper health care. The treatment of this defect is only developmental activities in which babies can be involved from the beginning. These activities can maximize or improves the physical and mental capabilities of the defected babies and these activities are known as early invention which includes therapies which also includes medications (JOSEPH, 2016).
There is no treatment through which the size of head can be changed but only the development programs are available which can help in improving the potential of these babies. The research on this is ongoing which will take time to develop any medication for Zika virus and its ill effects.
In the given case, Company ABC, a multinational company has produced a gene therapy technique which will reduce the microcephaly in the babies from the pregnant mothers who got infected from Zika virus and it requires stem cells for it so that the effects can be reduced when pregnant women will be cured and the babies will be saved from this lifelong fatal defect in the unborn babies. The clinical trials are conducted by the company and it has been seen that the adult stem cells only reduced the microcephaly to 15% whereas the embryo stem cells under 14 days old reduces the microcephaly to 50% and embryo cells over 14 days reduces it to even 100% (Fakruddin, 2012).
Stem cells are the undifferentiated cells which come from two sources, from the embryos or from adult tissue and these stem cells can be developed into the following types of cells like blood cells, skin cells, etc. Stem cells are used to cure many diseases and injuries. These are used in a therapy which saved many children from the diseases like Leukemia and other treatments are done with the help of it. There are some important clinical trials which are exploring the uses of stem cells for developing medicines for many other diseases, Zika virus is one of them. At present very few treatments are proved as safe and also effective with stem cells. Different types of stem cells have different effect on the body. Stem cells are making advancements in developing the treatments which could save the affected body from the diseases and infections but there is much to explore in the future (Hopkins, 2016).
For the gene therapy, company ABC needs stem cells in large supply so that they can cure communities and the occurrence of microcephaly in babies. Gene therapy is a fast growing field in which genes are brought in the body of the patient to treat the diseases. It controls heredity problems. The genes are inserted into the cells or embryos to protect them from the genetic defects which could be carried on to the future generations. Gene therapies are grown and include the treatments like of cancers or infections.
The embryonic stem cell research is focused on the stem cell lines. In the laboratory many cells are generated through many cycles of growth. One cell lines supplies the number of cells to the researchers. Company ABC can acquire stem cells legally and ethically through these sources:
1. Cell lines
2. After the fertility treatment, the leftover embryos
3. The techniques which create custom made embryos like the sheep Dolly was created. This technique is Somatic cell nuclear transfer.
There is a clear debate between the people who are in support of embryonic stem cells and those who are opposed to the same. Most of the scientists and patients are in the favor of the use of stem cells and believes that it will help in the development of treatments for many diseases and infections like heart diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, etc but there are many opposes who says that it is unethical to use stem cells for the development of the treatments of the diseases because it destroys embryos which is unethical, no matter how much benefit it produces. Human embryonic cells are obtained from the tissues in human body and they are often obtained from the fertility clinics when the embryos are left over from the failed reproduction attempts. The human embryos are destroyed when its cells are harvested. The adult stem cells are different from the embryos stem cells. Adult stem cells are found in adults, infants or children. When stem cells are obtained from these sources, there is no destruction of the embryos. Company ABC can use the embryo stem cells if it is obtained from the miscarried or stillborn fetuses which do not harm living creature and it can also be obtained if it can be without harming the fetuses. Such acquisition of stem cells is ethical where there is no harm produced to the fetus (Fakruddin, 2012).
It is unethical if the stem cells are obtained by killing or destroying the fetus, abortion of fetus for the purpose of obtaining stem cells is also unethical. umbilical cords are the flexible cords which attach a human body to the fetus and when the baby takes birth, this cord is detached which can be stored and used as a stem cell and it is an ethical mean or source for stem cells. It is not necessary that embryonic cells are used for treating diseases or curing them but adult stem cells can also be used for the same and it has been proved as it provides benefits to patients in many diseases like cancer, anemia, liver diseases, diabetes or heart attack and many more.
Methodology in Research
The research is qualitative which is taken up by referring to many secondary sources like previous research papers, newspaper articles, reports, etc. data has been collected from these sources and the research is designed as qualitative research.
The main purpose of study is to find out the ethical ways of acquiring the stem cells for the gene therapy developed by Company ABC for the cure of microcephaly in the unborn babies due to Zika virus.
Data has been gathered by studying many other research reports and articles on the same which are able to solve the purpose of the study.
It is to be found out that how law helps the company to explore the stem cells for the treatment of microcephaly in the unborn babies. Because it is a very complex issue and has been controversial between the researchers, scientists and patients. It is very important to follow the ethical steps to acquire stem cells for the gene therapy application. There are different opinions on the stem cell research. The question also rises that why it is unethical to kill few embryos for saving millions of people from life taking diseases but it is unethical to take someone’s life to save other’s life. One class of human being should not suffer because of another class and that’s where ethics count. Law does not prohibit the stem cell research or cloning of stem cells but partial bans are practiced by some states. There are private institutions which supports the researches for stem cells if it is ethical or legal but the funds by government cannot be used until and unless some guidelines are not followed for carrying on the stem cell research (Fakruddin, 2012).
It arise a question that after which point the development of an embryo is unethical or should not be allowed. It is known that any stage of embryo is the stage of development into a human, it is a continuous process which should not be stopped for any purpose but according to Warnock committee, 14 days from the start of development of an embryo is the time when some biological changes takes place which are significant.
Ethical and legal consideration
Embryos will be human life and a human life cannot be taken and should be protected. There are some considerations which should be taken by Company ABC while engaging in the stem cell research. First of all, moral dilemma is to be addressed that whether it is acceptable or not to experiment with a living cell or embryo and whether these embryos are considered as human or not. The stakeholders are to be identified or recognized which are the donors of embryo, the embryo, the scientists who carry out the research and the institutions which support the research and liable for any result they will get. The general public is also a stakeholder as it is indirectly involved with the decisions and research conducted by the scientists and the future of the cures and treatments for the diseases will be taken out from these researches (Holm, 2008).
The risk benefit ration can be determined where the risk is restricting an embryo to be into human and benefit is future medical treatments and cures for patients. According to the guidelines of Human experimentation, the research on stem cells is questionable. There are certain principles which can be proved as guidelines for Company ABC for conducting the research on stem cells. Stem cell donors play a major role as they can voice their opinion on this ethical question but they are not free to kill any embryo to get it used for a research (Holm, 2008).
Law also plays a major role in tacking the ethical issues and social issues which is created by the stem cell research. It is not easy to decide that whether the research should be completely banned, made limited or allowed completely. Law decides these things and tells everyone what is acceptable and what is not. Law makes a balance between the advances made in the embryo stem cell research and the benefit of society in relation to the protection of embryos. United Kingdom was the first country which initiated the embryo research and a law is made which are Human Fertilization and Embryology Act 1990, which is last updated in 2008 and it regulates the creation, storage and usage of embryos in the country for the research. It is regarded as a criminal activity or illegal if any research is carried out without taking the permission from Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA), a body which grants the license for the same. It says that the embryo donors should provide their written consent and the detail for the use of embryo will be shown (Holm, 2008).
Different countries have different opinions on the stem cell research like in Austria and Germany, the embryo is considered as human and given right to live with all the human rights and protections but in UK and Denmark people think that embryo is not too develop to enjoy these rights as a human being. In Australia , federal and state law governs the research on stem cells and there are guidelines which set out the principles and values which should be applied to embryos and human stem cells. In Australia, the research is funded by public bodies and also by private institutions (Master & Crozier, 2012).
The scientists are continuously increasing the pressures to expand the research which creates a need to draw a line for the usage. There are alternatives to embryos as there are tissue stem cells. These are untapped option for stem cells which can be used for the development of treatments and cures of fatal diseases. Somantic cell nuclear replacement can be used to produce stem cells which says that the embryos can be clones just like the sheep Dolly and there were many reasons to be in favor initially but then it was criticized as it was regarded impractical and included much costs (Master & Crozier, 2012).
Company ABC can acquire adult stem cells. It is less effective in comparison to the embryo stem cells but it is immoral to kill the chance of an embryo to get developed into a human being. It would also be injustice if treatments and cures will not be developed for those who are suffering from fatal diseases. Thus, company ABC should acquire embryo stem cells from the stillborn cases and can clone them for carrying out its gene therapy to cure the microcephaly in unborn babies. Unborn babies have right to live normally and they possess more right to live for which the stem cell research should be carried out but under the ethical considerations and guidelines (Master & Crozier, 2012).
The balanced approach will help it in carrying out its research at a medium pace but it will prevent the injustice with the embryos and will save millions of lives and thousands of those babies which are suffering from the effects of Zika virus through a pregnant women. The company has to apply for the permission to the government for the acquisition of stem cells so that they can continue their process legally and ethically.
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